There's been quite a bit of discussion about this year's defense as compared to last year's defense. Most recently in the comments of the Affecting the Quarterback article. However if you look at the stats, this defense matches up pretty well with last year's. In fact, other than rushing yards, fumbles (both forced fumbles and fumbles recovered), and sacks, this defense is as good or better than last year's. And before you say "yeah but we had SJSU, PSU, and Duke this year," remember that we had VT, FIU, and North Texas. I'd say that they're about comparable schedules thus far.
Through the first three games last year our defense was awesome against the run. We gave up 126 yards on the ground (including 1 yard against Florida International). However this year we're giving up nearly 131 yards a game on the ground. Last year our opponents only average 1.5 yards per carry compared to 3.8 yards per carry this year. Fortunately we've bee more successful at keeping out opponents out of the end zone this year; we allowed 2 rushing touchdowns last year our opponents scored twice on the ground while we haven't allowed a rushing TD yet.
While our defense this year is not stopping the run, it is as good (if not better) against the pass as last year's defense. Through three games last year we gave up 430 yards through the air or 143.33 yards per game. This year we are slightly better allowing only 398 yards or 132.67 yards per game. Per catch we are giving up less yards as well; 9.7 ypc this year compared to 10 ypc last year. We're holding opposing quarterbacks to a much lower completion percentage this year as well; 44.6% compared to 53.1%. Last year we gave up 2 TDs compared to only 1 TD this year. The only area in which last years passing defense was better than this year's is sacks; we had 5 last year compared to only 2 this year. However, we are much better at intercepting the ball; 5 this year compared to only 1 last year. I would saw that even though we're not getting the sacks, we're still affecting the quarterback.
Speaking of turnovers, we have forced 4 fumbles but only recovered 1 this year compared to 2 fumbles forced and 2 recovered last year. That's 3 total turnovers last year compare to 6 this year. So, we're averaging 1 more turnover per game this year. Last year's defense gave up far fewer yards than this year's; 556 (185.33 yards per game) compared to 760 (253.33). But our defense has been much stingier in the points department by making our opponents settle for field goals. Last year we allowed 4 TDs and 1 FG (31 points) compared to 1 TD and 4 FGs (19 points) this year or 10.33 points per game compared to 6.33 points per game. All in all, I'd love for our defense to be a little more stout against the run but (as Pete said) the game is scored points not yards. Also, I'd love to sack the QB more but I'd trade 1 sack per game for 1 turnover per game any day of the week.
I guess what I mean to say is, that I am not as worried about this year's defense as some others seem to be. Especially when we consider that #57 had to sit for 2 games, we haven't really seen many blitzes yet (pretty vanilla thus far), and Jerrell Harris saying that they've been holding back.